Patient care could be hit by cuts

CLOSURES of community hospital beds in east Suffolk may not be enough to save the county from crippling debts it has been warned.Until now the trusts have insisted their financial recovery plan - which includes the community hospital closures - would help them to achieve better patient care.

CLOSURES of community hospital beds in east Suffolk may not be enough to save the county from crippling debts it has been warned.

Until now the trusts have insisted their financial recovery plan - which includes the community hospital closures - would help them to achieve better patient care.

But at a board meeting of the east Suffolk Primary Care Trusts (PCTs), health bosses were forced to approve the possible development of further actions, if the financial recovery plan does not go far enough.

If debts are not slashed within two years, bosses admitted they would be forced to look at other options that could affect patient care, something they have consistently said would not happen.

However, it is not yet known what these plans include.

As revealed in yesterday's Evening Star, the much-treasured Bartlet Hospital in Felixstowe has now been highlighted for closure rather than the General.

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It is one of four community hospitals in the county facing the axe.

Carole Taylor Brown, chief executive of the east Suffolk PCTs, said: "We have not put any of these further proposals forward because we believe they would compromise the delivery of national targets.

"But we have to be realistic about what we can achieve in the time frame."

The three east Suffolk PCTs, the Suffolk Mental Health Partnership Trust and Ipswich Hospital show they have a combined debt of £47.9m to overcome.

Board members expressed concerns the financial recovery plan was very dependent on other organisations, such as social services, being able to help out the PCTs, and conceded it was a real possibility there may still be debts at the end of it.

Dave Newman, a non-executive director, said: "However, unpalatable it is we have to support the recommendations before us."

The proposals contained within the official financial recovery plan will now go forward for consultation, and the board will look at further actions if they are thought to be necessary as the plan progresses.

The consultation period will begin on Monday and last until October 31.

Throughout this time a number of public meetings will be held. The first will be on August 8 at Endeavour House, in Ipswich, the second will be on September 20 at the War Memorial Community Centre in Kesgrave.

n. What do you think about the possible changes? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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